As vaccinated Americans continue to shed their masks — leaving anti-vaxxers as susceptible to contracting COVID as ever — skeptics are going to great lengths to avoid getting jabs. This includes skirting post-lockdown requirements by buying and selling fake vaccination cards online.
Early last week, phony vaccination cards were first discovered on Etsy, among other online marketplaces. The creator-friendly e-commerce site, which struggled for over a year to take down listings promoting the false spread of information — like vendors selling products that could “prevent” the coronavirus — was the first venue for anti-vaxxers attempting to trade falsified cards. But now, selling vaccine cards has gone mainstream, with several showing up on Amazon where one vendor tried to sell a 10-pack of blank COVID-19 vaccination cards for $12.99.
Amazon quickly took down the listing, sharing with NPR: "We do not allow the products in question in our store. We have proactive measures in place to prevent prohibited products from being listed and we continuously monitor our store.”
But nevertheless, fake vaccine cards are out there — and they are yet another hurdle that law enforcement agencies will have to tackle as the country tries to reach herd immunity through mass vaccinations. It should be noted that vaccine cards were never intended to be the official way to prove vaccination status in the long term. But the fact that plain white cards are easily replicated is proving to be a bit of a challenge. Instead, according to the Federal Trade Commission, government agencies, colleges, and other organizations can create their own digital verification process. This can include apps and passports that will connect to legitimate state immunization databases, hopefully making counterfeit vaccination cards eventually obsolete.
States like New York are already rolling out digital tracking requirements for vaccinated individuals. And, as more borders reopen, airport security is also ramping up, with airlines requiring more than just a vaccination card. United, Delta, and American are all encouraging travelers to upload their health documents online, while also pushing for the creation of digital passports that would make it easier to scan and check for a traveler’s vaccination status.
Vaccine hesitancy remains widespread globally, though, perpetuating desperate tactics like replicating cards, which are largely being instigated by anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists.
According to NBC, step-by-step instructions for making faux vaccine cards have shown up on multiple pro-Trump sites, including Patriots.Win, 4chan, and other QAnon forums. Extremists have not only explained how you can illegally download a template from Department of Health websites, but give specific instructions on writing with a ballpoint pen and replicating the rushed handwriting of an exhausted healthcare worker.
These fabricated vaccine cards are not only a threat to public health, but as the FBI has confirmed, explicitly against the law and can be punished with a fine of up to five years in prison because the unauthorized use of an official government agency’s seal is a crime.
“If you did not receive the vaccine, do not buy fake vaccine cards, do not make your own vaccine cards, and do not fill in blank vaccination record cards with false information,” The FBI said in a statement earlier this year. “By misrepresenting yourself as vaccinated when entering schools, mass transit, workplaces, gyms, or places of worship, you put yourself and others around you at risk of contracting COVID-19.”
Perhaps an easier way to appear as though you're vaccinated might just be to...get vaccinated? Just a thought.